Four Extra Place Specials on Thursday
Alan Dudman recaps the stories from Day 2 and looks ahead to Day 3
Young guns reign supreme and the rains came on Wednesday
Day 2 and an afternoon for the young guns at the Cheltenham Festival as Darragh O'Keeffe collected his first ever winner of the Prestbury meeting (after a near-miss in last term's Coral Cup) and John Gleeson tailed the card, the 18-year-old student and amateur from the famous Gleeson family with a win in the Champion Bumper for the legendary John Kiely.
Whatever he's studying, his educational books most involve taking the circuitous routes, as he was away from all the carnage in behind in the bumper.
His mother named the horse too.
The scrappy street-fighter that is Langer Dan landed one of the big handicap pots for the home team - cue aeroplane celebration from "he of the pilot wings" Harry Skelton.
Camprond looked to have the race in the bag for the new training alliance of Hobbs-White, and the £373 traded at 1.251/4 was agony for the backers of the one-time favourite for the race - ecstasy for the layers. The nimble Langer Dan deserved his Cheltenham win with podium efforts twice in the past three attempts.
Business as usual at Grade 1 level for Willie Mullins with Impaire Et Passe opening up the afternoon with a seriously impressive performance in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and Energumene finding his dancing feet again in the Queen Mother Champion Chase to record a 10L - his second Queen Mum victory.
The Real Whacker laid down a marker for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup and is now 20/1 for the 2024 big race from 40s after his Wednesday success in the Brown Advisory. Gerri Colombe almost got there and was hit at 1.434/9 in-play, although his trainer more than made up for it with a one-two in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country epic. A real old ding-dong scrap up the straight.
The rains came for him, but it was Mullins that reigned supreme again as he fast approaches 100 Festival winners. Of course I backed Dinoblue in the Grand Annual and she absolutely clouted the last fence. Bosh! - as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey said.
Stayers' Hurdle the Thursday highlight
It's all about the 15:30 - Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday, and surely one of the hardest races to solve of the week. If you're going well this week with the punting, no problems. If it's not been so kind over the two days, it's a race of a puzzling nature.
And remember, we switch to the new course and a stiffer track with fresh ground, although it looked pretty wet today.
Blazing Khal's crucial piece of work has booked his ticket for the wily old fox Charles Byrnes, although does he represent any value at 10/3. The strength is perhaps more to do with the frailties of his rivals?
The top five in the betting are all trained in Ireland, and even the sixth is French. Can Paisley Park do it again? He was a drifter last night from 14/1 out to 18/1 on the Sportsbook.
Pertemps Final poser with the Extra Places
Plenty of value for the each-way players with the Extra Place Specials on Thursday with three more to go with the Stayers'.
The 14:10 - Pertemps Handicap Hurdle has the small matter of 24 runners to try and unpick.
The movers post-Day 2 on the Sportsbook were:
Moka De Vassy 50/1 into 22/1.
Level Neverending 40/1 into 25/1.
Bear Ghylls 14/1 out to 25/1.
Brandy Mcqueen 100/1 into 66/1.
Plate movers for Wednesday
More handicap and Extra Place Special action comes from the 16:10 - Magners Plate Handicap Chase and 24 runners.
Stolen Silver for Sam Thomas has been a hefty 20/1 into 12/1 swing, and Celebre Dallen from 50/1 into 28/1 was another who was strong at the time of writing. No one seems to like Hereditary Rule, and the 16/1 on Wednesday soon became 50/1.
The Muir offering plenty of points of view
A field of 26 is expected for the finale 17:30 - Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
Unsurprisingly, this presented plenty of market moves from Wednesday evening:
Punitive 28/1 into 20/1.
Rapper 30/1 into 20/1.
Captain Cattistock 40/1 into 25/1.
Ballykeel 40/1 into 25/1.
Defi Bleu 100/1 into 40/1.
Dr Kananga 20/1 out to 40/1.
Stumptown for Gavin Cromwell is the 5/1 favourite, and he couldn't have been more impressive at Sandown with the way he sauntered to a 10L success last time. A 10lb rise for lengths matched from the handicapper is like-for-like. I wish it was always that easy to equate.
Luccia ready to justify short price
The 16:50 - Jack De Bromhead Mares' Novices' Hurdle holds a very strong favourite in Luccia at 6/4 - who is looking to follow in the footsteps of Love Envoi last term. Before that, guess who won it? Willie Mullins with five on the spin.
Nothing was backed at all last night, only drifters. Henry De Bromhead's Foxy Girl was a drifter from 11s to 16s. Nikini for Mullins also was also was a slider from 12s to 25s.
Ryanair miles correct call for the "Shish"
Saving one of the best until last with the 14:50 - Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, and the race for those that love an intermediate distance.
Shishkin at 10/11 is at least in the right contest and it could be a good afternoon for Nicky Henderson holding two short-priced favourites.
It will be fascinating to see how former Festival winner, but somewhat enigmatic (read out of form) Envoi Allen, gets on - and he was a 12/1 chance on Wednesday evening.
And in reverse Grade 1 order, the opening 13:30 - Turners Novices' Chase could be the banker bet for many with 5/6 favourite Mighty Potter for messrs Elliott and Russell.
Banbridge was notably weak from 4/1 to 13/2.
Tony Calvin's selections
With day three at the Cheltenham Festival, Tony Calvin is recommending five to back including an 11/1 shot in the Stayers' Hurdle and a 12/1 best bet.
He says of an old friend tomorrow: "Frero Banbou has been an infuriating horse to follow of late, often flattering to deceive, and I may have too much of an unhealthy history with him."
Click here for TC's tips on Day 3.
Nicholls on Thursday chances
Paul Nicholls has three runners on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival, including having a big chance with Il Ridoto in the Plate Handicap Chase who he says will love the soft ground and has plenty more to offer, click here for more.
Rain is on its way again tomorrow, a day perhaps for the final Paisley Park story?
However, the story of Wednesday was 86-year-old John Kiely winning the Champion Bumper. The Kiely and Gleeson families will be celebrating on the way home, and Kiely gave one of the loveliest interviews soon after.
"Racing is a lovely game." And there's nothing else left to say.